The Return Of Postal Banking? One Solution To Declining Access To Public Services
Canada's Economy In many rural towns, villages, and reserves the Canada Post office is the sole federal presence — a central point of the community, provider of services, and connection to the rest of Canada.
It is also one of the few unionized employers of a largely female workforce in many areas. And yet, in the last 35 years, Canada Post has closed more than 1,700 offices across the country — leaving communities isolated, underemployed, and without access to federal services.
Supporting all communities
The Canada Post Five-point Action Plan (2013) called for the promotion of private franchises and a significant reduction of hours in its corporate offices. Franchises in rural Canada have provided neither the service nor the stability of a proper post office according to Brenda McAuley, President of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association. “Our studies show that when they replace a corporate office with a privatized franchise, in 53 percent of communities surveyed, those franchises later closed as well and all that was left for the residents was community mail boxes on the side of the road.” says McAuley.
This decrease impacts all Canadians, not just those living in rural communities. A robust postal network is fundamental to the success of a geographically large country such as Canada. Dismantling that network as a cost saving measure is short-sighted.
“The financial situation of people who are in difficult straits would be much better if they had access to financial services and loans at the post office rather than having to rely on predatory short-term loan companies.”
Fortunately, people are giving a lot of thought towards ways to expand, while also bringing in new revenue, rather than contract the services provided by Canada Post offices. “There are roughly 6,400 postal outlets across Canada,” says John Anderson, Principal at Anderson Consulting. “It’s probably the largest retail network in the country. We could be offering all kinds of different services that could not only generate money to help keep existing post office services running, but could also provide considerable benefits to these communities.”
A savvy solution
One such service that’s been receiving a lot of attention is the possibility of reintroducing postal banking, which would be a great boon to the thousands of rural communities currently without a financial institution, among which First Nations reserves are disproportionately represented. “There are very few financial services on reserves,” says Anderson. “Many reserves, however, do offer postal services.”
This option is especially important given that Canada’s rural communities and reserves are typically less wealthy than our cities. A lack of banks and credit unions are only helping to keep them that way. “The financial situation of people who are in difficult straits would be much better if they had access to financial services and loans at the post office rather than having to rely on predatory short-term loan companies,” says Alan Blanes, organizer of the Canada Chapter of the Public Banking Institute.
Whether through postal banking or other initiatives, one thing is clear — it is vital we protect access to federal services in all Canadian communities.